Yorktown

5/31/22

Mists rise from the muddy fields soaked from weeks of rain. The dawn sun peeks through the distant salmon colored clouds over the ocean’s plain… her golden rays carry a promise of warmth.

Am I ready to begin, another trek from East to West across this Great Land?

Pondering the scope of the path I look left but hear behind me…a fife and drums? This early in the morn with no one else around? I turn to see emerging from the mists three groups of soldiers, rain soaked, gaunt, unshaven, weary to the bone. Some clad in faded blue waistcoats, fabric so thin as to show patches of old white cotton next to their wasted skin…some in redcoats nearly as badly worn… some in pale beige linen mud stained in brown. They approach and join standing as one before me…silent…deep hollow eyes wondering at the spectacle before them… a ghost?… bright orange from head to toe, blue reflective lenses covering the eyes, some odd machine at his side…two wheels with bars of metal between. Their muskets hang loosely, some in hand, some strapped over shoulders slumped from years of war. I notice the wood of each stock, worn smooth with time, glistening in the early morning sun. How many times has each aimed and fired a musket ball into the approaching lines?

The grain of the wood is beautiful…I am reminded of a slick, worn bannister in a group home for the young blind…each sliding down backwards… caught in the arms of a loving headmistress … Squeals of laughter… ” Let’s do it again !!! “

Why that thought now on this muddy plain? Who truly understands the Mind?

The soldiers dare one step closer…” Are you one of us? Êtes-vous des nôtres?” “Yes and No… Oui et Non.”. I remove my sunglasses and we connect deeply eye to eye. They look again at the bike but find they are too tired and at a loss of words to ask what, who, when, or why? Instead from the depths of their souls: ” Will this soon be over? Will we be able to go home?” Blue, Red, White is of no concern, only “home”. I hesitate… “ Yes and No…but in the End…Someone will catch you in loving arms…” Silence… eye to eye they measure my response, nod a grateful thanks and turn to fade into the clearing mist, different flags fluttering behind long lines…

I do not have the heart to tell the Blues that in just a few short years their grandsons with musket in hand will be at war again…this time against each other. “ Will this be over soon? Will we be able to go home?” “ Yes and No”.

The sun’s warming rays now point due West and it is time for me to begin. I say a silent prayer for safety and give thanks. I look to see my Guardian Angel smiling…waiting…always ready to catch me… as I slide backwards down the slippery bannister of Life…

The Good Earth

5/30/22

I suspect the most comfortable place each of us has been was long ago in our mother’s womb.

Two great novels come to mind as I start this ride in these troubled times.

Tolstoy brought to the forefront in War and Peace the struggles of the common man in the face of advancing history. Over and over again over the past 10,000 years we have seen “leaders” come to power to bring armies of people to slaughter and death. It’s happening now in Ukraine, same place, same forces, same leaders, same common folk dying. The leaders get the credit for forming history while the rest of us prop them up.

Pearl Buck’s Pulitzer winning Good Earth looked past the leaders to the common folk and told stories we have all lived. I have never forgotten the scene of a small frail Chinese woman delivering her baby in the fields and returning to work.

As we read these two stories what comes to the forefront are not the Napoleons of the world but all the rest of us, peanuts by comparison.

We can identify with them through the inherent belief in the Golden Rule.

Kindness is a large component of this identification with our companion souls.

All throughout the ride we will encounter kindness from strangers we have never met before or nor will likely ever see again.

Such kindness has already started on this trip. There is a small store on the railroad tracks just north of the NC border. It has been there for years, the past 20 or so my source for wonderful Virginia peanuts. Each year at Christmas I receive a 25 lb box of their goods from a greatful family I helped take care of a long time ago. Two or three times a year I stop by to refill my pantry .

When the owners found out about the ride the first thing they asked was “ How can we help?” The result …12 lbs of peanuts for the riders about to start.

As we leave Yorktown, the birthplace of America, we will head inland deeper into the womb of the United States. Each day we will find ourselves buried in the kindness of the common man so far away from the history making news. Each day we will be bathed in the warm natural springs of communal humanity and gradually feel that comfort of returning to our beginnings.

We may all be small individual inconsequential peanuts in this world, even those who call themselves “leaders” , but together we are a Family of One.

Follow the Beak

5/29/22

Golden-tailed Sapphire (Chrysuronia oenone) (♂) Small hummingbird flying and static suspended on a background of green leaves and plants and blue colors, with outstretched wings looking to the right

Each year hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles, some actually crossing the Gulf of Mexico. I have often wondered about this feat. 

On a ride once in San Diego I was swarmed by a group who mistook me for a large orange blossom. I asked them how they managed such a trip and to my surprise they said “ Easy, we follow our beaks”…and off they flew…

Two night ago I awoke in a panic about the ride. Suddenly I had great doubts about my ability to complete this trip. Was I too old ( yes, no, maybe), was I in good enough shape ( yes, no, maybe) had I trained enough (yes , no, maybe), did I lose enough weight (no), was I up for the heat and sun of the desert again (yes, no, maybe), could I sleep on hard ground again(no)? At a loss as to how to sort out my woes I buried my head in a soft pillow and faded off to restless sleep.

The next morning I arose at 6 and road 40 miles as fast as I could to prove to myself that I was in fact ready to go. 

As I pedaled I thought about previous trips and recalled that each day is a single event, and that in fact each day has partitions…the water stops. A successful rider thinks ahead only to the next rest stop just 20 miles ahead. In this way the magnitude of the ride is less overwhelming. The maps help , each panel no more than 30 miles with a bright red line showing us the way…if only someone had bothered to put that red line on the actual road for us…

Concentration telescopes to a single map panel, the next water stop, and the constant living in the moment so each of us stays safe. 

Worries of the total path ahead disappear 10 seconds after the first departure point.

This year ,however , there is an added concern, that of Covid. Organizers of the trip have put in place elaborate contingency plans if anyone gets sick. Campsites and places of worship have asked for modifications in how we camp. Each rider has been vaccinated 3 or 4 times and each tested for the virus before the ride. 

The East Coast Riders just completed 2500 miles and luckily none tested positive or became ill with Covid.

As an MD I may be asked to make difficult decisions if someone become sick…but I’ll cross that bridge if and when need be…

As I pondered all this Angel and Flossie appeared, wondering at my deep thoughts. I shared with them my poor night’s  sleep and concerns only to have the two of them launch into endless stories about how they lived through the Black Plague centuries ago, Angel ferrying souls up, across, or down on Dantes orders and Flossie calming her bovine relatives who suddenly found themselves alone in the world…their bipods being led off by Angel of course.

Given their great expertise in times of crisis I asked their advice.

“ Well wear your mask of course… and follow the beak.”

I guess I’m ready now… 

Time

5/21/22

Prior to the industrial revolution most babies were conceived between 2 and 4 AM while monks were completing their first set of hymns and  prayers…

I have my final three days of training rides starting tomorrow at sunrise, 60 miles each AM. I am often asked if I get bored riding these long distances. 

I have walked 4 miles every morning for the past 25 years and ridden more than 50,000 in the past 8 years. I don’t think I have experienced boredom even once. 

We divide Time into past, present, and future…it is an irony that of the three divisions only that which is most fleeting  is actual,  the other two  exist only in our imagination yet occupy 99% or our mental time. 

The added irony is that of those two which absorb so much of our thought process , one cannot be changed, and the other is guided most often by the whims of chance. 

The imagination is a powerful shaper of each of us…the science of psycho-cybernetics….a.k.a….   The Inner Game of Music, Tennis, Baseball…you pick your subject…

Don’t ever downplay how  dwelling on the past or future warps our souls…sometimes we each need a rest…

We may spend endless hours stewing over the past, and endless hours worrying about our future yet so rarely do we spend much time where we actually live…in the present. These hours of concern, looking forward, looking back move as slow as cooling lava  and consume, literally consume, hours of the fleeting moment…such a loss…

But the present…it moves like greased lightening, like a 99 mile an hour baseball passing over the plate, like a shooting star, like a rainbow in the sky…

Think of times we have been absorbed in an activity of the moment..how often do we look up to see that 1,2,3,even 4 hours have passed when it seems that we just started the task?

How often does a day dream seem to last just a minutes when so much more time has passed?

How often does time with a loved one seems to move so much faster than we like?

Time does not exist in the moment and millions of added moments in the present…the real present, not that clouded with thoughts of the past or future…add up to “ no time at all”…

A careful bike rider cannot afford to live in the past or future…only the present matters…there is in fact only billions of milliseconds of “now” ….

Hence… there is no time to get bored…

There is another time the rider experiences , that being  natural circadian rhythms, often lost in the rat race of daily life…

The past and future are psychic, while the circadian rhythm is corporeal

For thousands of years humans have lived and died by this rhythm, one which curiously enough puts us to sleep during the siesta hours and wakes us between 2 and 4 AM. Much creativity has come from these hours early morning hours…investigate when the great musicians, authors, poets, inventors, businessmen, generals, leaders, etc. did their best work. Look to where intimacy between partners was most often likely to flourish. Look to when babies were most often concieved…During these few morning hours post a deep, natural, restful sleep. 

All that was changed for the worse by the clock, the industrial revolution and finally by electricity. And of course “schedules”…

On these rides the clock has little meaning, there is no real electricity, and our only schedule is set by sunrise, sunset, and the weather of the day.

Not only has the rider entered a world of living in the pure present for 8 hours a day but so too has the unaltered circadian rhythm been allowed to resume its important place in life. How many times have I come across a rider fast asleep during siesta time?

Boredom cannot exist and natural rhythms resume control. Could it get any better for the soul?

Actually …Yes …because while all that is happening the rider finds themselves  surrounded  by “Mother Nature”  bathing all in her endless Glory day after day after day….